Schools warned about whooping cough epidemic


As kids go back to school and are often in crowded classrooms, the possibility of spreading the disease increases.

"So I called the pediatrician, my pediatrician, and made sure all my kids were covered because I don't want them coming home and spreading anything," parent Julie Sailor said.

With the H1N1 flu last year, many teachers and school nurses went on heightened alert for flu-like symptoms and this year, it will be the same to help prevent the spread of whooping cough.

In Santa Clara County, 124 whooping cough cases have been reported as of August 10, compared to 25 in all of 2009. There has been a similar jump in numbers across the Bay Area.

In the Santa Clara Unified School District, notices from the Public Health Department went out to all school employees and will be available to parents in three languages, English, Spanish and Vietnamese.

Children who show signs of whooping cough will be asked to go to a doctor.

"If that's confirmed, they willl go on a set of antibiotics and will not be allowed to come back to school until those antibiotics are finished," Tabitha Kappeler-Hurley from Santa Clara Unified School District said.

Whooping cough is a highly-contagious bacterial infection that can cause severe coughing fits that make it difficult to breath. People who live with or care for an infant especially need to get vaccinated.

As of last week, the California Department of Public Health had confirmed more than 3,000 cases of whooping cough. That's more than seven times the number of cases from all of last year. There have been eight deaths, including seven infants.

Dr. Joseph Cirone is a Good Samaritan Hospital pediatrician who got his booster shot two months ago. He thinks unscientific fears linking vaccines to autism are to blame for the current spike in whooping cough cases.

"If you have a large numbers of people vaccinated, then you have heard immunity and we're losing that herd immunity now, where there's enough people are unvaccinated and now the disease can spread," he said.

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